So with out further adue in true reductionist fashion I am reducing years of parenting and experiences into a neat and tidy top ten list on how to best raise an effective reader in my opinion:
1) All babies/children/adults in your household should have a library
card (because we are none of us made of money and could never hope to
buy all the books)
2) Read to small babies. It really doesn't matter if they understand it
or not they like to hear the sound of your voice and be near you.
3) One of the stages of learning to read is chewing on books, you should
invest in some cloth or plastic books for your baby to chew on.
4) Actively teach respect for books, do not allow children to colour on
pages of books or rip pages out. (of course it will happen, but you can
decrease the occurrences by preventing access to crayons and books at the
same time, and supervising access to paper books.) Repeat after me "Book are precious resources!"
5) Indulge their interest by seeking out books on topics they will find
interesting. Unless it's inappropriate DO NOT try to regulate content, they
will get enough of that at school. ( I really mean it. Let's say for
example your darling daughter loves princesses, but you hate the "D" word
and do not want to encourage her to buy into this particular culture,
well too bad for you! You want her to read? Let her read what she likes.
There is much and more counter culture available, from "The paper bag
princess" by Robert Munsch to biographies of real life princess such as
Dianna and Kate, you may read these along side the "classics" to give
her a bit of balance.) They will want to read/ be read the same book
over and over and over
again. Indulge them, toddlers and small children learn through
6) Encourage emerging readers to read independently while continuing to
read to them, one should not replace the other. (Just because they can
read it does not mean they can understand it.) Don't make it a chore or
obligation, read to them for as long as you can hold their interest, or
until your voice gives out, but don't force them to sit still and listen
if they are really not able to absorb a book at that moment, take a break and
try again later.
7) Talk about content, authors and audiences. Ask "Why do you think "that
character" did that? What do you think they were trying to achieve?"
Read "about the author" sections and talk about the author's research
and authority (or lack there of) on the given subject. Ask "Who do you
think the Author wrote this book for? How do you think this book would
be different if if was written for ---------- ?"
8) Partner with you child's teachers and local libraries. Participate in
as many FREE library programs as you can, and complete any and all
reading homework assignments.
9) Do not force children to show off their reading skills to friends and
relatives, encourage them if they want to show off, but do not force
them. it's really, really embarrassing and could turn them off reading.
10) READ! READ! READ! and when you're done, READ some more! Read to
them, read around them, and talk about how much you enjoy reading.
On raising a reader......
Now that's he's six and just completed grade one I am enjoying the
fruits of my labour. We can no longer spell things to keep them secret
and we have to watch over our shoulders while chatting on line to make
sure there are no little readers behind us. We can easily occupy our son
on long bus / train trips with books. As he impressed people far and
wide with his reading skills and comprehension I am frequently asked the
question "How did you raise an avid reader?" So here goes nothing, All
this is my own humble opinion and is based on personal experience......
I have been reading to my son since before he was born. The day I found
out I was pregnant was the day I started reading out loud. After he was
born I continued reading to him whatever I happened to be reading while
he was nursing. (A lactation consultant once advised me against reading
Stephan King out loud while I was nursing, not because he could
possible understand the content, but because babies are very sensitive
to changes in the Mother's heart rate and if I got scared it could
distress him) Once he began focusing his eyes I began putting books in
front of them. The very first was "I kissed the baby" by Mary Murphy.
Once he started putting everything in his mouth (as all babies do) I
gave him plastic "bath books" and cloth books that could withstand the
chewing and constant drool for him to "read" unsupervised and read him
classic board books such as "ABC" by Dr. Seuse and "Hippos go berserk"
by Sandra Boyington. (Well they are classics to me) He has always had a
library card and the very first book he chose to take out of the
library himself was "Big Wheels" by Anne Rockwell. Both my Husband and
myself are avid readers, as are our families. We were both raised in
homes where books were constant companions. I have a cousin that gives
out books at Halloween. ( Her house is always very popular!) So when I
say he has *always* been exposed to reading and books I do really mean
his entire life thus far. I know that this is a huge factor in his love
of reading and books, as is the fact that I encourage his interests by
seeking out books on topics that he would find interesting (ie books
about Star wars or Batman or whatever pop culture icon he is currently
obsessed with). I think all parents would do well to expose as many
books as possible to their children as young as possible. I highly
recommend "Out came the sun- a day in nursery rhymes" illustrated by
Heather Collins, for any and all toddlers.
Aside from reading books out loud and encouraging independent "reading" I
always talk about books. I happily summarize the books I am reading for
pleasure (leaving out anything I deem inappropriate obviously) for him
and tell him all about the settings and character arches. He is already
looking forward to being old enough to read "A song of Ice and Fire" by
George RR Martin (but not until he's at least 14 right? Um, maybe 18?)
We always talk about the value of books. I say things like "Having the
ability to read, and comprehend what you read well, gives you the
ability to verify anything." and "If anyone ever tells you something and
you're not sure if it's true, ask them about their sources, if they
can't quote any don't believe them, if they quote a book/ article , read
the it and research the author before you decide it's value." We talk
a lot about bias and intended audiences. (If anyone out there is
tempted to say "Oh come on he's only six!!" I'll just say this; he
independently made an activity of comparing his Star Wars DK early
readers to his Star Wars Character anthology to find the
inconsistencies, eventually declaring the DK readers entertaining but
inaccurate.) For me it wasn't enough to raise a reader, I wanted to
raise a critical reader. One thing I have told him over and over again
is that if he develops good reading skills and good comprehension skills
no one will ever be able to keep him from learning anything. (Somewhat
implying that there will be cheats and liars in his life that will
purposely attempt to deceive him for myriad reasons, especially in
election years) Imagine how attractive that must sound to a child,
imagine the sense of power, knowing that you will have the ability to
educate yourself about anything you chose not matter what anyone else
thinks you should / should not know. I am saddened to say that I know
adults that do not read and comprehend as well as my six year old. (Now
imagine the tragedy of all the illiterate adults in this country.)
Knowledge truly is power and I wanted him to be able to access all that
I hope you find my experiences useful and that you are able to find
something in here that is of value to you and your kids.........So now
you tell me, what good books have you read lately?